Call Center on the Hook in Class Action

     BOISE (CN) – Fired workers can proceed with a class action claiming a call center hired them “under the guise of long-term employment,” knowing it would be only short term, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
     Lead plaintiff Regis Harvey et al. sued Maximus Inc., which operates call centers around the world.
     In 2013, General Dynamics Information Technology awarded Maximum a $100 million contract to operate U.S. call centers as public points of contact for health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.
     That same year, Maximus began hiring “limited service” employees and “regular capacity” employees to work as call center representatives. More than 1,800 were employed to work at Boise’s call center, alone.
     Harvey and two other named plaintiffs say they were hired as regular capacity, at-will employees. They filed the class action after Maximus fired them in January this year.
     They say they were fired as part of a reduction in force, but were misled about the duration of the jobs from the beginning.
     Maximus began advertising for customer reps at its Boise center in June 2013 through job fairs held in conjunction with the Idaho Department of Labor, according to the complaint.
     “Maximus told plaintiffs during their initial interviews for employment … that ‘regular capacity’ employees would remain employed after the first open enrollment period to service future enrollment periods through duration of the … contract,” according to the complaint.
     The plaintiffs claim they quit other jobs or passed up on other jobs to work for Maximus, which offered them jobs “under the guise of long-term employment” that would serve as “career” opportunities.
     Maximus filed a motion to dismiss claims of fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation, and promissory estoppel, claiming the plaintiffs failed to state a claim or plead fraud with particularity.
     U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill on Wednesday dismissed the negligent misrepresentation claim, but let the fraudulent misrepresentation and promissory estoppel claims stand.
     “Plaintiffs have presented a plausible argument they reasonably relied on Maximus’ representation that they would be ‘regular capacity’ employees with an indefinite period of employment,” Winmill wrote. “Plaintiffs have offered documents, which suggest that Maximus knew at the time employment was offered that it was for a limited period of time, even if the duration was not exactly defined. Plaintiffs have also shown substantial harm, evidenced by their termination from Maximus and from leaving or forgoing other secure employment.”

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